Stop me if you’ve heard this before! Once again, the Raptors played some lackadaisical defense and allowed a bad team to hang around. Once again, a bd team got hot from downtown.
And once again the Raptors applied the clamps for a short stretch, the opposing team cooled off, and the Raptors won.
Oh and they were missing a whole bunch of guys too.
That’s just the way it seems to go in Raptorland these days! 15 in a row. Crazy.
The OG Anunoby Game
With Serge Ibaka off sick, you knew someone would step up in his absence. Would it be Chris Boucher, the only healthy centre left? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who started? How about rival scarf aficionado OG Anunoby?
OG had a career high 25 on just 13 shots (along with a career-high-tying 12 boards), and that scoring came in a variety of ways: from downtown, on the break, in the post, creating for himself. It was great to see him break out of his scoring slump.
But once again, all praise must be given to Anunoby’s defense. Sure, he was a bit slow-footed in the first half (like literally every other player on the court) but he was great in the second. To open the fourth, he was guarding Karl-Anthony Towns, and he forced and airball and a turnover on the Wolves’ first two possessions. Later, after James Johnson hit two straight threes, OG casually was like, “nah, we had enough of you bro” and blocked the next one from a standing position. When Johnson recovered the ball, OG forced him baseline and Johnson threw the ball to Patrick McCaw.
OG hasn’t been scoring much, but the Raptors don’t (often) need that from him. They need him to play defense, and he doesn’t often let them down.
All of the above should not discount the excellent game Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had though! He finished with a season high 21, but like Anunoby, his defense was the story.
One might’ve thought that the Wolves, with their star centre, would dominate the undersized Raptors inside. That didn’t happen, and Hollis-Jefferson frustrating Towns was a big part of it. Towns couldn’t get anything going around the hoop; either Rondae or OG was in his grill, and when he did make a strong move, Pascal Siakam was there to help. Towns did get to the line 12 times but ultimately finished just 5-for-13 from the floor, and only two made shots in the paint.
Toronto ended up outscoring Minnesota 60-38 in the paint and were +3 on the glass.
Hope the Rockets are taking notes.
Four Bounce Mirror
How much fun was it seeing this shot go through the hoop?
The mirror image almost! Straight up, then bounce, bounce, bounce and through. As Matt said, that rim sure does like the Raptors.
Nick Nurse, Challenge King
According to my numbers, Nick Nurse has made 30 challenges this season, and is now 18-12 on the year. Pretty good! He had anther successful one last night.
Generally speaking I dislike the system, and reviews in general. But, what’s cool about the challenge is the element of strategy involved, and Nick Nurse has timed his use of them well. Last night, for example, he challenged a foul call that when overturned, led only to a jump ball (which the centre-less Raptors lost).
But it was a smart challenge because it was Kyle Lowry’s fifth foul; with the all overturned, Lowry only had four and was able to stay in the game. Nurse has challenged in late game situations where he was going to call timeout anyway, and on offensive fouls that result in free throws — all high leverage situations that are worth the risk of losing a timeout — and worth sitting through a review.
I still hate it, but I’m glad our coach is good at it!
Enjoy the Moment
I was kinda miserable during last night’s game, I have to say. The Raptors were turning the ball over every other play, playing terrible defense and giving up so many open looks and backdoor cuts, and I generally dislike watching Towns and D’Angelo Russel play basketball (they both always look like they’d rather be doing anything else. Enjoy that for the next few seasons, Wolves fans!). And I guess I’m just used to all this winning?!
So I’m trying to remind myself that this winning streak is, well, awesome. 15 in a row is really, really impressive, especially for a team as banged up as this (yes, even against a soft schedule).
Thankfully, in timely fashion, as I checked Instagram after the game, I saw these two images:
Kyle Lowry is having so much fun. He’s thrilled that Pascal Siakam is an All-Star, that Nick Nurse is running away with Coach of the Year, that this team is so damn good. We should all endeavour to be as filled with joy as Kyle is in these photos!
I won’t lie, getting #16 in Brooklyn is gonna be tough. The Raptors barely hung on to beat Brooklyn the other day, and I’m certain they’re gonna be looking ahead to the All-Star break. I’d even go so far as to say I’m expecting the Raptors to lose... but, they’ve done nothing but defy expectations all year, so why should tomorrow be any different?